TRIATHLON & ENDURANCE PERFORMANCE COACH
Ailbhe has been coaching endurance sports since 2012, and has been a Scientific Triathlon coach since 2021. She is also a very competitive triathlete herself, having raced on the draft-legal circuit representing Ireland at European and World Cup level. Ailbhe is from the Ireland, and lives in Girona, Spain.
Ailbhe got into triathlon just before going to university to study Sports and Exercise Science. Through lots of hard work, Ailbhe managed to get herself to an elite level on the draft-legal racing circuit, having represented Ireland at European and World cup level, with an appearance at the Elite Multi-sport World Championships in 2019.
Ailbhe is currently undertaking a Masters degree in Sports and Exercise Nutrition to further broaden her level of knowledge, allowing her to deliver a very well-rounded coaching package. She has also completed a year-long High-Performance Coaching Program with Triathlon Ireland, which provides a select number of coaches involved with a very unique experience. The program helps coaches understand their own coaching values, their expectations and to enhance their communication style and skill set. Ailbhe has a keen interest in female athlete health and performance, and she continues to explore this area in her academic studies.
Ailbhe’s coaching philosophy has been shaped through her own athletic career and the people that she has worked with. She applies an integrated approach to her coaching style, taking all aspects of work, life and sport into account for each athlete. Ailbhe emphasises making sure the person behind the athlete always comes first. A happy person makes for a better athlete. Ailbhe excels at making sure that training and the entire development process of the athlete is both effective and rewarding.
- Nationality: Ireland
- Languages: English (native), German (basic, and deteriorating)
- Education: B.Sc. in Sports and Exercise Sciences from University of Limerick, Level 3 VCTC Diploma in Sports Massage from Loughborough College, MSc in Sports and Exercise Nutrition from IT Sligo (in progress).
- Coaching Experience: Started coaching in 2012. Joined Scientific Triathlon in 2021.
- Athletic Accomplishments:
-2nd Sprint Distance National Championships 2019
-2nd Olympic Distance National Championships 2019
-11th Elite Aquathon World Championships 2019
-1st Aquathon National Championships 2018
-3rd Sprint Distance National Championships 2018
-1st National Cat 1 Series 2017
-26th Hong Kong Asian Cup 2019
-37th Tongyeong World Cup 2019
Good structured program with flexibility for my schedule
Being coached by Ailbhe was amazing. I really liked the training program, Ailbhe is great at working around my crazy schedule, and the communication and feedback were helpful and frequent.
Get To Know Ailbhe
Where are you from and where do you live?
I'm from a small town, Roscrea in the County Tipperary, bang in the center of Ireland. There's not much going on there really, the town only got a swimming pool there when I had already moved away for University. Now I live in Girona, Spain, which is a cycling and triathlon mecca!
NB. Ailbhe didn't start swim training until she was 18, yet has still managed to compete internationally on the ITU draft-legal racing circuit, doing World and European Cup races. There were a lot of 50+ kilometre training weeks (for swimming that is) involved in that, though.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Living in Girona I'm very lucky with the weather. Every morning (Monday to Friday) I head to an outdoor pool to train around 8am, or 7am depending on if I have an earlier work commitment. Two of those weekdays I do a gym workout after swimming. Then I head home and work from 10am to 2pm when I take an hour lunch break, where I might walk the dog or do a short run. Then I get back to work from 3pm to 6pm, and then I'll do an evening workout. On a Wednesday I might have a long ride, in which case I tend to fit it in earlier in the day and work later in the evening. It's a nice balance between work, train, and walk the dog.
What's your favourite workout?
It's always been a long run. I enjoy the time to just run and not having to focus on anything. Now especially (NB. August 2021) coming back from an injury I haven't had that in such a long time that it's definitely my favourite of the week.
What's your least favourite or most dreaded workout?
High-intensity work on the turbo trainer, like a minute on, minute off or similar.
What (if anything) do you listen to when training?
Nothing, I don't listen to anything. With one of my previous coaches we used to do two or three turbo trainer sessions per week. I'd just be sitting there enjoying what I'm doing, and then the coach would walk in turning on the music and I would ask them "What are you doing? I don't need it, I'm fine!" I guess I'm happy in my own thoughts when I'm training.
What's your favourite book, blog or resource related to triathlon or endurance sport?
It's probably more entertainment purpose than education purpose, but I love following all the pro athletes' individual Youtube channels. It's really cool to get an insight into who they are and what they do. In terms of books, I think Steve Magness' "The Passion Paradox" is a really good book about the psyche and who you are and how you can carry that into sports. Steve is also a great Twitter-follow, and everything he produces is really great.
What's your favourite food and beverage?
This one threw me... I think when I lived in Ireland I would have said porridge, I love it, it's so versatile. And I would have said that my favourite drink was milk, because it's so wholesome and when you're in Ireland and it's cold, milk is just great. But now, coming in from training in the heat, it's definitely some sort of fizzy lemon drink. I don't know about food, maybe something like a buddha bowl or a poke bowl, something that is really colourful and it takes forever to eat because there's so much chewing involved with all the veggies.
What do you like to do when you're not coaching or training yourself?
We have a dog and two cats so they take up a lot of our downtime. I don't really get up to much else to be honest, there's not enough time, haha!
If you could have dinner with any three people dead or alive, who would it be?
This one took a while to come up with too. I've been asked this before a couple of times and the person I always put in there is Lance Armstrong. I would love to tap into his psyche. That would be a really interesting conversation. The second person would be the late Jerry Kiernan. He was an Irish athletics coach and also an Olympic marathon runner, a legend of Irish sports and a fountain of knowledge. And then, based on my own background of coming into triathlon from outside of the sport, from riding horses and stuff, I would love to talk to Lisa Nordén as she has a very similar background, and a very colourful career with lots of ups and downs.
What's your educational background?
My undergraduate is in Sports Science from the University of Limerick. I'm currently one year into a two year masters degree in Sports Nutrition, I'll finish in June 2022. Outside of formal degrees, I completed a Women's Coaching Pathway program co-created by Triathlon Ireland, Rowing Ireland, Boxing Ireland, and Cycling Ireland. It was a year-long program for female coaches by application. It's not about the technicalities of a sport like a Level I or Level II certification, but more about teaching you to learn about yourself, your coaching methods, your morals and so on. It was a really interesting, unique opportunity.
What's your sporting background? Do you still race actively?
My background is with horses (jumping and eventing) and with an Irish sport called camogie (NB. a stick-and-ball team sport, the fastest ball-playing sport in the world). When I wanted to start triathlon when I was 16 I had to make a decision between horses and triathlon because both are so time-consuming and sadly had to sell my horse. I actually just randomly came across triathlon on the internet and thought I'd give it a go. I didn't have a bike, I didn't swim, and I didn't run, but I bought a cheap bike and went and did the race. Then the year after I started university, where I got into a serious swim club and started focusing on triathlon. I basically started something I had no background in but very quickly I wanted to go as far as I possibly could in the sport, and ended up racing on the ITU circuit in World and European Cup races. I still race, but the last couple of years have been horrific with illness and injuries. Before that I would have said that I want to go the Olympics, but after these years I just want to be able to enjoy what I do and be healthy and get to the highest level I can within those constraints. Even if it doesn't take me to the absolute highest level, I will be very content if that happens.
Who are your coaching role models or coaches you've learnt a lot from?
Mel Marshall, who is Adam Peaty's (NB. breast stroke specialist from the UK, three-time Olympic Champion, eight-time World Champion, world record holder...) coach. I lived in the UK for five years and did a bit of life-guarding at the pool where Adam and Mel and their group were training, so I have observed many, many hours of Mel's coaching. I learnt a lot from her, how she operates, how she deals with Adam the person and Adam the athlete, as well as managing the rest of the group. She is also pretty much the only female in a very male-dominated group of coaches.
What types of athletes do you coach?
I have a mix of people, some focusing on sprint distance, others on Ironman, some people focusing on running only. A whole host of difference focuses and abilities from people doing their first marathon to very experienced athletes.
What do you expect from athletes you coach?
Open communication and dedication. Dedication doesn't necessarily mean always doing what's written down. It's dedication to being the best athlete you can be, including being open with communication if you're tired and can't do the session, or something popped up in life. Another thing is trust. This means trust in me to give you the training that is best for you, trust to come to me with problems, an open, trusting environment simply.
What should athletes expect of you?
It's the same as above. It's my job to be dedicated to coaching you and writing your program. It's also my job to be very open and honest in communication, and all of that is built on mutual trust.
What are your special interests or areas of expertise within coaching, training, physiology and sports science?
My educational background is sports science, so I have expertise in general sports science. When I'm done with my masters degree in Sports Nutrition that will also be an area of expertise. I plan to write my dissertation around the female athlete and female physiology, which is one of my main interests. The female athlete, female health and physiology is something I'm really passionate about and can contribute a lot with to my female athletes.
Describe your coaching in three to five words
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